Roma Social Inclusion Measures the European Commission Can and Should Take

29 Apr

An Open Letter to the European Commission

I have been accused in the past of always complaining about what the Commission does and never offering “constructive” solutions myself. Factually this is false.I am a strong pro-European. I also reject sugar-coating and I think critical thinking is what can get us out of the mess we are in at this moment.

Those of you who truly care about Roma integration know that many of the EC’s policies and procedures are counterproductive and that many in senior management are inept and/or racist when it comes to the Roma.   You know that the Commission and the Member States waste EU public money and that most of the measures taken are simply window dressing.  You know that funding as it is now designed does not produce results (the numbers are irrefutable) and that it cannot produce results. Trying to do the best with a paint-brush when you need shovels, excavators, and trucks is an apt metaphor I heard from one of you.

You know that the overwhelming majority of the things I wrote are true (they are based on hands-on experience, official papers or “anonymous” leaks from within the European Commission). Focusing on my inherent mistakes or picking and choosing what you want from my texts is, intellectually, dishonest.

Nonetheless, you will probably be happy to know that this is my last article criticizing the EC. I am taking a break from Roma issues, but first, I will leave you with what I think are five rather easy and perfectly doable steps to begin the long expensive process of turning around the mess we are in today, before it becomes an even bigger, more divisive, and expensive mess tomorrow.

Roma Social Inclusion Measures the European Commission Can and Should Take:

  1. 1. Stimulate work in the most difficult Roma communities, especially in urban ghettoes (As you know, the Roma birthrate is significantly higher than the European birth rate – and the number of Roma living in ghettoes in Eastern Europe and in make-shift ghettoes all over Europe is on the rise).

Why – Due to flawed design of EU funds targeting Roma social inclusion and poor design of funding mechanisms in general, we created an industry for producing fancy but empty words, copy-paste reports, endless conferences and fake reporting. We stimulated the desire of Roma activists to think of themselves as “dignitaries” and have ended up with highly dysfunctional Roma political and civic elites (many of whom, as you know, are incompetent, corrupt, and/or criminal).

Ghettoes are exploding. Shockingly low education levels fuel delinquency in the form of drugs, prostitution, theft, loan sharking, trafficking, and vote-rigging.  When combined with close links to politicians, these ghettoes are a seedbed of crime for the entire European Union. It is a lot easier and more efficient to convince Member States that they need to invest in improving living conditions and educational access in the ghettoes than to start enormously expensive legal procedures of infringement that will lead nowhere. Early education especially in rural Roma communities remain mainly empty words in pompous speeches –the end-result more and more uneducated Roma join ghettoes all around Europe. 

How

  • a. With existing resources launch enough competitions for medium term (3 to 5 years) institutional support for NGOs that can demonstrate results (not contract or report imaginary work) in Roma communities and ghettoes. This can be done by different DGs and EACEA. (I wrote in the past a full brief about why and how it can be done –here just some highlights)

Such calls will stimulate real grassroots work and act as an incentive for EU member states to pay more attention and be more involved in addressing the issues in the most problematic Roma communities and ghettoes.

  • b. Make clear to the governments (including in high level meetings) that grassroots work – and not conferences or trainings or reports – is where the EU funds should be spent. (NB: The Secretary General of the Council of Europe already made that step- so you are safe to say the same).  Make sure these issues are taken into account in negotiations with member states about their priorities for the next financial period.

These things are simple and easy to do within the constraints of the European Commission, and will lead to increased efficiency of EU funds targeted to address Roma exclusion as well as to improvements in the functioning of Roma civil society.

  1. 2. Replace existing bureaucracy in charge of Roma issues with one that has both power and expertise in Roma issues. Require a yearly working plan, indicators for measuring performance, independent evaluations and full transparency to ensure efficiency of such bureaucracy.

Why – Although there are some good things that have been made possible through EU funding, they are exceptions.   Anyone who asserts that the European Commission and EU Funds have significantly improved the lives of Roma citizens is either delusional or dishonest.  Today the European Commission shows all the signs of structural racism when it comes to the Roma and scant courage to seriously address Roma exclusion and anti-Gypsyism.  I dealt with these issues extensively in my previous articles – I will not substantiate more here.

How – There are people already working in the Commission who could form the core of the more efficient bureaucracy we all desire. Temporary contracts with experts (meaning people with hands on field experience, not expertise in writing reports) as well as secondments from member states could attract the right talent. This is an easy way to build inside expertise and legitimacy for the EC. Most Member States will follow the recommendations of a more meritocratic bureaucracy, which will also garner stronger support from the civil society. A basic standard on working on Roma issues should be adopted regulating employment and consultation with Roma. The independent evaluation of the EC mechanisms and bureaucracy working on Roma should be supervised by the European Parliament.

  1. 3.    Address the waste of public money

Why – the European Commission and especially Member States are perceived to be wasting huge amounts of money when it comes to Roma social inclusion –we all know glaring examples of such waste.

How – stop contracting and sub-contracting other expensive bureaucracies just to get rid of large sums of money and spend your budgets. As long as the World Bank, UNDP, Council of Europe, OSCE, etc., do not invest in Roma issues and have no Roma expertise within, giving them money wastes public funds – with no direct benefit for Roma. These funds can be much better used to create your own institutional expertise.  Curtail the largely ceremonial conferences on Roma social inclusion and the report production. Focus on institutional support of NGOs that work at the grassroots level and reform the ESF mechanisms and priorities to fit the realities on the ground.

  1. 4. Create an independent EU Agency for Social Inclusion and Innovation. (NB: to avoid the veto of France, do not name it the EU Roma Social Inclusion Agency). Use the agency as a critical think tank for dealing with the National Roma Framework Strategies and to help offset the lack of creativity and expertise within your own institution.

Why and how is not needed here. Just review the documentation that led to the creation of the FRA and avoid making the same mistakes that made the FRA irrelevant on Roma issues.  Base this agency in Romania – the country with the largest Roma population—to signal your commitment to seriously addressing Roma social inclusion at its roots.

  1. 5. Replace Commissioner Reding with someone with genuine commitment to Roma inclusion as well as the knowledge and political skill to start turning around the EC’s dismal track record to date. Avoid similar disastrous appointments in the future by introducing basic requirements for the Roma focused jobs- meaning hands-on experience and proven results.

The why is self-evident considering the mess we are in now. How – you can start by creating a High-level taskforce for the Social Inclusion of Roma in Europe – a recommendation liked and promoted by the ex-Commissioner responsible for Roma issues – Vladimir Spidla. I explained this structure to some of the senior management in charge. Such structure should also come up with a basic standard of work on Roma issues that should be respected by the intergovernmental and governmental bureaucracies.

 

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16 Responses to “Roma Social Inclusion Measures the European Commission Can and Should Take”

  1. Alex April 29, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    “I also reject sugar-coating ”
    You seem to be the only one. It’s what makes you much more intelligent than others, you deal with reality

    • Ruth Barnett April 30, 2013 at 10:57 am #

      I agree with Valery Nicolaiu but the biggest problem the EU must tackle is the ignorance and indifference (to the suffering of Romanies) in the general population of Europe. Stereotypes that lead to prejudice must be challenged. The media must be restrained from showing Romanies in a negative light and encouraged to show their positive side.

  2. theodora müller April 29, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    great posting, valeriu! I will spread the word.

  3. Ruth Barnett April 30, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Education is the only real answer to the Europe wide hostility and persecution of Roma and Travellers – full and higher education for more of the Roma and Travellers themselves and, at the same time, education of the general public about Romanies. Understanding and challenging stereotypes and prejudice should be a part of school education for all children in every European country as a start!

  4. Sebb May 3, 2013 at 6:43 am #

    Dear Mr. Nicolae,
    I respect and admire your work and happy to see a Roma activist standing up for the good of the future of Roma. One thing I realized in my work is strong Roma activists such as yourself end up taking a break to quote you “…this is my last article criticizing the EC I am taking a break from Roma issues…” The biggest problem Roma activists have is this and i sincerely hope that you wont take a long break :-), we need people like you and there is a need to continue fighting against all odds.

  5. peter June 14, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    You mention “Address the waste of public money”.

    Unfortunately that is what government does best.

    The more they tax.

    The more things stay the same.

  6. Diana June 30, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    I am from Romania and I can see that Roma people are not so innocent as EU says about them, they are not so poor and have problems to live. They beg for money on streets and they have mansions in which they don’t even live in, they stay in a small house in a back yard. They build such houses with the money gained from other countries by begging and our state doesn’t ask them taxes for their houses because they are considered a minority… university would be free of taxes for them to encourage them to study, but they don’t… they prefere stealing and begging. They are savages. They even mistreat their neighbours in order for them to leave the houses so they can build their mansions on all along a whole street. France gave them money to come back to Romania and not disturb them anymore, but EU impose we should respect them, while Roma don’t respect us. Their kids are awful too: some thrown stones at me without me saying anything to them. They are society parasites and even corrupt police to not give them penalty.

    • valeriucnicolae June 30, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

      Some of Roma do indeed fit your description. But those are very few and as representative to Roma as the corrupt Romanian politicians, Romanian thieves, Romanian killers, Romanian morons are to you or to me. The fact that you are at this moment a racist can be cured …education and patience is a solution for you as it is for the Roma children that threw rocks at you.

      • Diana June 30, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

        Well you said I am a racist at this moment. Actually I don’t prefere any race against another. I do give a chance for anyone to show what he/she’ got before I judge him/her. I did see Roma people that were very good citizens, but unfortunately they can be counted on 1 hand.

        There are 2 types of Roma: that respect their traditions and those that not.

        Those that not are most of them. They are impolite with us and treat other Romas with affront.

        Those that are traditionalists are very polite to us and to other Roma people.

        In my opinion, a racist is someone who does hate all people of a race no matter of their behaviours/education.

        I just don’t like those Roma(which frightly are the most) that treat disrespectful everyone around. Why “frightly”? Not because of xenophobia, but because I feel insecure living in a country where they try to expand as a comunity… and IF ONLY THAT COMUNITY WAS THE TRADITIONAL PART OF ROMA PEOPLE… and when they commit something illegaly, police says they have no courage to interfere(by the way, in my city we don’t even have special police forces, just local police). Recently, when a band of Roma panderers(pimps) was caught in my small city, the special police forces from another city that is closest and bigger had to come to get them.

        As another example, in my neighbourhood there live some Roma and had 2 children: young boy and a bigger sister of him. He wanted to play with the group of Romanian children and they were in 2 minds if to play or not with him… they were afraid of not getting beaten/insulted by him(Roma children are “educated” like them since very young..they act much like the adults in their community…THAT IS CREEPY) And if they refused POLITELY, his siter would COME TO BEAT THEM. That is CULTURE?

        I never insulted a Roma ever(not only me) and still got insulted.

      • valeriucnicolae June 30, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

        Diana – I suggest you try to be for a few days to be a Roma. It is not hard – just wear some traditional Roma clothes. See how it feels and then we can talk about it.Most of the “good” Roma you do not see because they do not fit the existing stereotypes. Whenever you are in Bucharest come see our Club and you might change your mind about some of the things you choose or want to believe in. Thanks for reading me.

      • Diana June 30, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

        Unfortunately I see those which are disrespectfull unable to be changed in a good way… they are teached/indoctrinated by parents since early years I suppose how to hate us.

        You cannot discuss with them negociably on any issue. Cannot get to a common sense. They are like already programmed robots. The majority of them, the few rest of them I have respect of-those work for their money and respect you and their comunity neighbours.

      • Rav June 30, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

        Hmmm some? Well i also live in a town in Romania… and as a mather of fact as of 1 month and 3 weeks my neighbors are RRomans… and i can tell u this much… 2 weeks after they moved in the whole trouble escalated 2 police apearences in 1 week( one arest for rather unethical charges againsta 27 year old male and one find for theft for a 11 year old boy) and that besides the noise and provocations i have to endure on a daily basis… intensionaly slammed doors, yelling, junk thrown over my fence, and warious other inconviniences… i do not know where you come from but in my region i haven’t seen that tipe of respectfull and traditional Gipyfolk for a wery long time, Instead i’ve seen whole streets turned into villas, sold off for a cheap prise becaus all good clients renn off scared by thair neighbors(RRomans). I am no rasist. i just want my peace and quiet. For years there was peace quiet and understanding on my street… and now??? so don’t give me that crap with RASISM. i pay my taxes and as someone from Romania u know how much that is so people like themcan go steal and beg in other countrys and build big villas and drive cars and be considered lving in poor conditions? give me a freaking breake… if a romanian hs a wedding or a funeral the police dosn’t block off a entire street…. best case u asa romanian are “blessed with a fiend for interupting the public circulation” if u drive a car without a licence after u had 6 or 7 pints of beer, rma women and walk avay from the crshsite u don’ get to walk free untill your trial. these people are the same as us. yet they desregard the law and every ethical or moral etiquete there is and get away with it just cause they’r a minority? hell i don’t call this racism i call this a call to justice… the unse that are discriminated are the romanian people, the ones that are treated and dealth with acording to the law while these people seem to be alowed special rights and privileges. No question romanians don’t make mistakes but law measns equal for all crime is crime and punishment is punishment…. i do not hate the rrom race i just hate the ones that do not want to integratein a society and share thair culture in an orderly manor. if things were diferent and they were more sivilised and respectfull i would realy respect them and welcome themwith open arms.

      • valeriucnicolae June 30, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

        Rav you are raving here and you do it in a hard to follow English. The fact that you say you are not a racist it doesn’t make it true. There are many logical fallacies in here and I suggest you should try to study a bit the logic of argumentation – a good start is Aristotle. There are indeed cases as you mention and I am all for tough laws for these people.But I can find hundred of cases of Romanians, Germans, Dutch, Italians etc that do things that are disgusting and against the law. They do not do it because there is a gene linked to their ethnicity that makes them idiots.Thanks for reading me though…

      • Diana June 30, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

        I was amased today because accidentaly I saw an article saying that [B]EU imposed Romania to not call the Roma people “gipsies”[/B]… and [COLOR=”RED”]if you do, you will have a high fine[/COLOR]… Who’s idea was that? I know that traditional Roma declared themselves “gipsies” and do not like the “roma” therm. They said on TV that they always had that name and “roma” is something new, that does not define them as an ethnic group.

        Well… if you have examples of good behaviours of Roma people, tell me, I am optimistic. I hope they are many because I heard many negative news concerning them. And yes I know there are many Romanians as well that do illegal things outside.

  7. Rav June 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    Valeriucnicolae I apologize for my bad English… my keyboard seems to have a rather twisted sense of humor(it’s one of those silicone ones and i haven’t yet mastered it) and as to my sense of logic i want to apologize for that as well i got carried away while writing.

    Let me start off by simply saying that I have been taught the difference between racism and hate. Racism consists in hating a community due to its origin, color, language, genetic makeup and other reasons that are based in xenophobic behavior while hate is more individual based.

    Indeed I know as a fact that others break the law as well and as a matter of fact i had friends of the Roma community, who had a rather exemplary behavior. As I said in the previous post I do not hate the Roma community, I just feel disgusted by that part of it that disregards the law by playing the “I’m a member of the Roma minority” card or recurs to the traditional “spaga” (paying off) to disregard the law. Hence the examples I gave (my neighbors who had 2 conflicts with the police and the drunk driver who didn’t even care about the fact that he hit an elderly women and left the crash site).

    As far as I know the Roma community is divided into clans and a majority of them have an honest income and contribute with their knowledge and culture to the society. These people I admire and respect.

    Yet there is a part of that community that goes far beyond the law, and it is that part that is spreading lately… these build vast villas and drive fancy cars and guess what… when it comes to taxes… “we do not have an income, we are poor.” Most of them are on social security and unemployment lists while they spent months on end in France, Spain Italy or Germany stealing or begging. These clans have their hands in gambling, prostitution, extortion, kidnapping and different other shady business. And the truth is that authorities look the other way and pretend nothing happened. I believe that this is the main reason why Romanian citizens are so racial against the Rome community.

    My point is that even dough Romanians or Germans or Italians do these things, in their country they are judged according to the respective law. While this Rome community part even dough they are registered in Romania and are considered Romanian citizens are handled with care (by that I mean the general attitude of the police and authority, be it out of fear of repercussions or out of the fact that they are on some clan’s payroll).
    Please do not misunderstand me, I appreciate the effort of integrating the Rome community in to the Romanian structure, but in the cases of justice the fact that the local and national authorities simply stand by and do not take action until it is far too late for some victims is troublesome.

    In my opinion the integration of the Rome community is a good thing but until the trust issue isn’t solved (on both sides) problems will keep going on.

    • valeriucnicolae July 1, 2013 at 5:03 am #

      No major disagreements here- rather on the same line only the way we say things is slightly different.Thanks for the explanation.

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